Thomas Sowell

How could industries have found all the millions of workers required to create the vast increase in output that raised American standards of living over the past hundred years, except by taking them away from the farms?

Historians have lamented the plight of the hand-loom weavers after power looms began replacing them in England. But how could the poor have been able to afford to buy adequate new clothing unless the price was brought down to their income level by mass production machinery?

Judge Robert Bork once said that somebody always gets hurt in a court room. Somebody always gets hurt in an economy that is growing. You can't keep on doing things the old way and still get the benefits of the new way.

This is not rocket science. But apparently some people just refuse to accept its logical implications. Unfortunately, some of those people are in Congress or in courtrooms practicing anti-trust law. And then there are the intelligentsia, perpetuating the mushy mindset that enables this counterproductive farce to go on.

This refusal to accept the fact that benefits have costs is especially prevalent in discussions of international trade. President Bush's ill-advised tariff on foreign steel was a classic example of trying to "save jobs" in one industry by policies which cost far more jobs in other industries making products with artificially expensive steel. Fortunately, he reversed himself.

Is it still news that there is no free lunch?

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate